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How do we present psychosynthesis to those who are new to it? – a question that faces all psychosynthesis practitioners. To help, I’d like to offer a simple one-word acronym, which is my attempt to summarise in a nutshell all the complex processes of psychosynthesis.
For me, psychosynthesis describes the natural processes of evolution that are unfolding in all sentient beingsin order to bring the divine seed in each of us to a full blossoming through embodied manifestation. In this respect, psychosynthesis is a collection of insights that can guide us as individuals and as a collective in this evolutionary process.
For the pure joy and fun of it, I have come up with this acronym:
CAARE – Conflict, Awareness, Acceptance, Responsibility, Evolution
This is my attempt to describe in a simple way the essential meaning of psychosynthesis, according to my limited understanding. Each letter stands for an essential insight or experience and, taken together, the acronym tells the story of what psychosynthesis is trying to say and do. So, let’s explore each letter and its underlying meaning – and please let me have your feedback so we can nail it down even better.
C stands for conflict
Conflict is the existential situation facing each of us. Life is suffering, as the great Buddha proclaimed, because we are divided between opposing forces and drives due to our attachments to false identifications. Assagioli (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 20) described the situation like this:
“In our ordinary life we are limited and bound in a thousand ways – the prey of illusions and phantasms, the slaves of unrecognised complexes, tossed hither and thither by external influences, blinded and hypnotised by deceiving appearances. No wonder then that man, in such a state, is often discontented, insecure and changeable in his moods, thoughts and actions. Feeling intuitively that he is ‘one’, and yet finding that he is ‘divided unto himself’, he is bewildered and fails to understand either himself or others.”
So we can say that psychosynthesis starts with the essential insight and courageous acknowledgement of our fragility and brokenness, combined with a willingness to face our inner conflict.
A stands for Awareness
Having acknowledged our brokenness, the next step is to turn the inner light of our awareness towards the origin of the conflict that is in us – and not only this, because psychosynthesis takes us a step further and guides us to a centre that can harmonise our conflict, namely the self as the inner observer. When we do this, we realise that we are not our suffering, nor are we our inner conflict, in fact we are self-awareness itself. When we find in ourselves the permanent centre of silent present observation, we can know ourselves to be the witness of our experience.
The key technique in psychosynthesis for achieving this realisation is the continual practice of dis-identification and self-identification: we disidentify from our inner voices and gradually learn to identify with the observer, with consciousness itself. In doing so, we wake up to ourselves as a centre of pure self-awareness and will, and we come to know as fact that: I am not my sensations, emotions or thoughts, but the observer of these energies, and also a leader who can choose and direct the content of my experience. Through psychosynthesis, we might realise that we, as the observer, can expand our self-awareness and identity from a separated self-sense to a unified sense of oneness. This is how Assagioli (From Psychoanalysis to Psychosynthesis, 1934) described the unifying centre:
“Psychosynthesis is neither a simple psychological doctrine nor a special technical procedure. It is primarily a dynamic, almost dramatic conception of human life, seen as the conflict between a multiplicity of contrasting forces and a unifying centre that tends to organise them.”
This unifying centre is our identity as pure awareness.
A stands for Acceptance
Acceptance is essential because without love, there is no transformation, no healing of that which is broken. Acceptance is an impersonal love that can contain any conflict from a loving perspective; acceptance allows pain to be seen and recognised. Psychosynthesis trains the student (and who is not a student) to love what is. Through acceptance, we become a loving observer and expand our capacity to be with whatever is present in our experience. In a loving atmosphere, the repressed, denied and rejected aspects of our nature can find a home inside us where there is peace. In this environment, the inner light of our shadow will emerge as a transpersonal quality that can be expressed in service to life.
Psychosynthesis is a psychology of acceptance, inclusion and unconditional love.
R stands for Responsibility
Responsibility refers to our ability to respond to what we consider to be authentic in our nature: to express this authenticity and stand up for it, and to take action from a place of authenticity. Responsibility also involves a rejection of the inner forces that we consider to be inauthentic and which seek to make us less than we are.
Psychosynthesis is a psychology of will, and responsibility is an expression of will – it is the ability to respond to our inner calling, because we are not only a centre of self-awareness and love, but also a strong force for good.
Here is how Assagioli (as cited by Keen, 1974) eloquently expresses this insight: “At the heart of the Self there is both an active and a passive element, an agent and a spectator. Self-consciousness involves our being a witness – a pure, objective, loving witness – to what is happening within and without. In this sense the Self is not a dynamic in itself but is a point of witness, a spectator, an observer who watches the flow. But there is another part of the inner Self – the will-er or the directing agent – that actively intervenes to orchestrate the various functions and energies of the personality, to make commitments and to instigate action in the external world. So, at the centre of the Self, there is a unity of masculine and feminine, will and love, action and observation.”
When we take responsibility for ourselves, we are acknowledging that we are here for a reason and that we have work to do. Psychosynthesis provides us with this insight and with the tools to carry our load, end suffering and build a better world.
E stands for Evolution
From a personal rather than a global perspective, evolution is the inner drive of the soul (also known as the Transpersonal Self); evolution is shown in the purposeful insistence on becoming everything we are capable of becoming. Through the process of psychosynthesis, we can wake up to our identity in terms of spiritual purpose – we can recognise that we are on fire, on a mission, and take responsibility to manifest who we are.
Evolution is the inherent drive towards synthesis that is present in life everywhere, as described by Assagioli (Psychosynthesis, 1965, p. 31): “From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life itself appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity – a labour and an aspiration towards union. We seem to sense that – whether we conceive it as a divine Being or as cosmic energy – the Spirit working upon and within all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty, uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving —slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly – the Supreme Synthesis.”
So psychosynthesis is CAARE: a blend of awareness, love and will in service to the world.
Well, how would you summarise psychosynthesis? Is there something missing in the above acronym? How would you refine it or simplify it?
I look forward to your response-ability. 😊